China probes another ally of retired domestic security chief

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 18, 2014 9:37 PM

BEIJING (Reuters) - A former aide to retired Chinese security tsar Zhou Yongkang is being investigated for corruption, the government said, the latest move targeting associates of Zhou, himself the subject of a graft probe.

The ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog said late on Tuesday that Ji Wenlin, a vice governor of the southern island province of Hainan, was being investigated for suspected serious breaches of party discipline and the law, the usual euphemism for graft.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection gave no other details and it was not possible to reach Ji for comment.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, warning corruption is a threat to the Communist Party's very survival.

Ji worked with Zhou when the latter was land resources minister in the late 1990s. Zhou has been put under virtual house arrest, sources have told Reuters.

Ji then followed Zhou to Sichuan province and became one of his secretaries when Zhou was provincial party boss, Ji's official resume shows.

The two also worked together in the Ministry of Public Security in the early 2000s. Ji was shifted to Hainan province, better known in China for its pristine beaches and resorts, late in 2010.

The Global Times tabloid, published by the party's official People's Daily, alluded to Ji's links with Zhou in an editorial on Wednesday, saying, "Because of his unusual resume, Ji Wenlin's downfall has attracted a lot of attention."

Several of Zhou's political allies have been taken into custody and questioned over corruption, including former Vice Minister of Public Security Li Dongsheng and Jiang Jiemin, the top regulator of state-owned enterprises for just five months until September.

Sources told Reuters last month that investigators had questioned more than a dozen senior officials, including the country's top prosecutor, about their links to Zhou.

It is unclear if the government will actually put Zhou on trial and risk embarrassing revelations about China's elite becoming public, undermining confidence in the party.

Zhou was a patron of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai, who was jailed for life in September for corruption and abuse of power in the worst political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four led by the widow of former leader Mao Zedong at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Zhou retired in 2012. He was last seen at an alumni celebration at the China University of Petroleum on October 1.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)